Isabel and I headed off to the French round by a round about route starting in Spain then through Andorra to do a boat trip down the Canal Du Midi for a week before meeting the trials riders at Andon in the Mountains west of Nice.
We arrived in Andon and parked our car right beside section one in the very heart of the village of Andon. Pretty jolly good parking we thought. Section one was a man made section with very big rocks positioned in a most inconvenient manner. Most riders however thought this was a doddle. I noticed early on the the riders were commuting off down the public road in the normal carefull manner that trials riders commute. Lucky we had our running shoes on, we headed off at pace to get to section two. A couple of kms down the road a car pulled up waving a trials brochure the lady calling out Mototrials. Stroke of luck it was Dougies aunty Janet and uncle John who the took us under their wing and became tour guide for the weekend. They were supporting some chaps on a green bike and their son who was minding one of the Brit boys. What we had not realised was that section one was in the ski village of Andon. Section two to Eight were about seven kms away on a ski field, then you commuted on public road about another five kms to sections nine to twelve.
When we arrived at sections two to Eight with tour guide Janet and John we realised that this was not an easy trial. The lesser lines had been pegged for humans but the pro lines were huge,tight, steep and unpleasant to ride. The observers were using pause rules. From what I can guess you can pause for one thousand and one one thousand and two and then the whistle blows and you have a five. It seems funny that riders from all countries think they are being hard done by but from what we saw the marking was fairly consistent with the odd observer counting faster than others. They would throw a tantrum at any rider or minder moving rocks etc. Dick Gardiner would really piss them off.
We managed to see sections one to Eight the first day but visibility of the sections was not like the other rounds I have seen. You struggled to see a whole section as the sections were hemmed into a little gully with the end of one section almost the start of the next.
Toilets! Well there was a toilet by section one. Another for sections two to Eight and another at the last group. So three bowls for several thosand people. I have noticed that you need to wear gum boots when you go to a loo at a French trial. My theory is that French motorcyclist either have extremely small wizzers hence the jet can not reach the bowl, or they have a wizzer like one of those spray irrigation nozzles with a 360 degree jet which would explain the amount of pee on the floor. You were frightened to pee in case you got a tap on the shoulder and some French chap saying ” eh Monsieur what a whopper yu ‘ave it must be nearly 70mm long. No wunder you kiwis ride like sheet”.
The riders. Still no doubt it is Bou and Raga in a league of their own. Fuji, Cabestany,and Fajardo are very close. The disapointment was POl Tarres who was stuggling all weekend. He actually looks too big for the bike now. On the first day Jammie Busto and Eddie Karlson looked like two future champions
When the results came in we had no idea who would be winning. We had seen Bou do a single dab and Raga start with a five on one and a dab on two. We saw Cabestany riding effortlessly through everything so were surprised to see Raga second to Bou and Fuji third.
We said good bye to our new Yorkshire friends and headed back to our hotel planning to meet up with them next morning. However next morning there was a bike race in the area. Somehow we became part of the race and with much weaving and passing made our way to the front. A lady with a yellow flag seemed to want us to go to a different place. BONJOUR madame we are kiwis and we go where we want fast. Yes we ignored her and made it to the trial in the morning. The odd cyclist needed an undie change. But that is life. Our Yorkshire friends obeyed the yellow flag and we met up with them on section nine in the afternoon. Apparently they had been to lovely French mountain village until the race was over.
The riders were looking very tired after riding in 32 degrees heat around a huge loop and through very tough sections. Raga was on fire. He looked like a world champion. We saw him clean the dreaded section twelve which had the biggest rock climb I have seen. Boy that bike sounds nice when tapped out. Next came Toni Bou on that awesome Monty. Over the first rock, float turn to line up the big snarly 10 metre climb and blast upwards bike sounding very sweet until oh dear the rev limiter kicks in. That would be the biggest trials crash I have seen. The minder seem to deflect the bike away from the direction Bou was flying so then it was just a matter for Bou to find the softest rock to land on. I think he found very hard rocks as it was about five minutes until he moved. He was then helped to the observers to get his card clicked. The results for his next lap show the pain he was in.
Well this was Ragas day and I have never seen anyone so excited to win. That old guy Fuji is still a real force in trials and the best personality it can have. I saw only two real contenders for future champions being Busto and Karlson. The Vertigo is still very much in development stage, but is very well funded, looks and sounds good although I think the final product will be very much different to what I saw. No one I spoke to had much hope for Gas Gas being rescued. I was surprised to see a few Ossa competing and all running well but off the pace.
My overall impression of the event. I would have say to Fim what the hell do you think you are doing to our sport. Forget about whether we should be riding stop or non stop or this in between version. Why the hell run a world champs in a hard to get to venue, forget to promote it, make it hard for spectators to watch and impossible for TV to cover. Try to find a Bernie Eccleston type who knows about promotion.
Yes we had a ball because it is our sport. Isabel really enjoyed the weekend and is now thinking about the Scottish. I suppose I should go with her.